Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Royals With Cheese

This year's Kansas City Royals are largely unchanged from last season's 91 win team. The franchise finally won their first playoff game, but have not won a playoff series yet. The team will feature it's usual strong hitting and defense, with the hope that the bullpen can keep games from being lost in the late innings.

C - Steady Spike Pellow will see most of the action, while defensive specialist Quilvio Martin will help against lefties.

1B - Season 13 HOF inductee Dallas Payton will look to give the Royals a reason to sign him to an extension. At 35 years old, his power numbers will be down, but he will find a way to keep his average and OBP at normal levels.

2B - All-world Jesse Brennaman added a gold glove in S13, as well as another All-Star selection to go along with his ROY and Silver slugger awards in S12. Jesse looks to be a mainstay at 2B, perhaps forcing other prospects to find a different position to break into the majors.

3B - Chun-Lim Satou and Dustan Daneker will compete for playing time. One of these two may find their way to another team if the bullpen does not carry their weight.

SS - Defensive-minded Sammy Saenz will once again patrol the middle of the infield. Backed up by all around utility Esteban Valentin, both can contribute with the glove, as well as knocking in a few runs at the bottom of the order.

LF - Vin Veras signed a 5 year contract that will keep the 3-time GG winner in KC for a long time. With enough defensive skills to fill in all over the field, Vin finds enough challenges to keep the game interesting. Coming off of a career high in HR and RBIs, this 25 year old is looking to elevate his game to MVP levels. Marshall Hunter, the team speed demon will back up Vin, and will fill in at 1B when Dallas needs a breather.

CF - Season 13 proved to be Matt Pierce's breakout year, winning his first Silver Slugger award, along with his 3rd All-Star appearance. Posting 32 HR, 114 RBIs, and a BA of .350, tells us that the future is bright and steady in CF.

RF - Franchise poster boy Lonny Waltman led the team with 120 RBIs and rock-steady leadership. His statistics aren't jaw dropping, but his positive clubhouse influence keeps this team on an even keel.

Starting Pitching
Nicky Sierra - needs to improve on his 5.12 ERA
Vic Lee - The old war horse hasn't declined much, and is looking to impress for an extension.
Fausto Almanza - Time for the youngster to grab the reigns and guide this team to the playoffs.
Carl Baker - Another 34 year old veteran who hasn't seen much decline in his abilities.
Tomas Valdez - Led the team with 16 victories. Another 16 would help this season's march.

Closer - Jeremy Russell led the team with 20 saves and posted a 4.11 ERA. Hardly stopper material.

Alan Raush and Diego Molina lead a mediocre bullpen that may have to be supplemented if the performance does not improve.

My prediction for the Royals is an 88 win season since the pitching staff is too fragile to compete with the power pitching teams in the NL. This team will soon have to look at putting together a rebuild on the bullpen if they do not put together a strong season.

The Little Red Machine season 14

Although the Reds lost several key players to free agency this off-season management is still optimistic about the Reds chances of making the playoffs. Fans however are not so pleased with the new look Reds. Obviously the loss of multiple cy young winner Yamil Pulido as well as impact players such as Jeff Brooks, Lee Coleman and Bruce Kinney will make the Reds a less competitive team this year but if you listen to the front office rumblings they feel they still have a good core of players that can work well together and scrap out some wins.

The line-up for the Reds has an obvious different look.:

C - Chris Duran is back in what may be his final tour with the Reds and while still a potent threat with the bat and an above average defensive catcher he's shown he can't handle the everyday rigors of catching in the bigs so he'll be spelled often by Luis Maduro who by all rights could still be a #1 catcher on many teams. There have been rumors of a one year extension for Duran but so far that is just all talk. Duran may also wind up batting 2nd this year which will be a whole new role for the veteran.

1b - under-used and unproven Bret Perez will likely get a shot as the opening day 1b this year. His .396 average and more than respectable slugging through 101 ab's last year made him the favorite to be one of the power bats the Reds are looking for in the middle of the order. He'll have to work his way up to win that spot though. GM erff isn't overly impressed with Bret's defense but thinks he can ofset what is lacking there with his bat.

2b - Edgardo Castillo is a veteran who was brought in last year and still has a few years left on his contract. He looks like the likely lead-off man at this time, replacing Lee in that role, and if the Reds fall out of it may be the first potential trade candidate.

3b - Young Sam Charles late season injury last year coupled with the Reds new respect for defense (at certain positions mind you) forced a move from SS to third for Sam. The Reds are looking for a little more production at the plate from Sam this year.

SS - Howie Daily, illegitimate love child of Chris Sabo and Ozzie Smith, will likely be the opening day SS this year. He always forgets his bat in the locker and has to use those 18" mini bats but his glove work is to die for. We'll see how this new D at SS theory works out for the Reds.

LF - ROY winner Domingo Jose moves from 3rd to left this year in a move that just made way too much sense for these crazy Reds coaches. Looking for another big year at the plate and far less adventures in the field with him roaming left instead of manning third. He has been quoted as saying he'd like to do a wall climb and high five a fan though ala Manny.

CF - another potential trade candidate if the Reds lose it is Miguel Rodrigo. He'll be moving from second into center this year in an attempt to get a little more range out there in the small park.

RF - Roger Merrick returns to play right field. He also could be moved if needed but as long as the Reds stay in it they expect Merrick to not only put up good numbers but be a leader type for the younguns on the squad.

Bench: other than Maduro the Reds have veteran and HoFer Omar Nixon to roam left and first, Wolf Latham to PH and play a little 1b, Jeff Figga, a late season waiver pickup last year, and Chipper Montgomery, both of whom can play multiple positions well.

The Starting Rotation is what will make or break this team this year. With Yamil and Bruce gone and Reds management deciding to see what one more year would bring a last minute decision to retain the services of one Harry Owen was made. After him it's a little shaky and we all know that Harry's constant guitar playing tires his arm out every time he has to pitch so he can't go that deep.

Harry Owen
Fausto Alomar - needs to step it up
Ismael Azocar - same
Mariano Bourbon and either Victor Chavez or Leonardo Evans (resigned for questionable sentimental reasons)

either Leo or Victor
Jaime Phillips (option picked up
Jorge Owen (very dubious)
Santiago Mangual ( a stud that will likely be traded if need be)
FA pickups Rigo Piniero and Antonio Wanatabe
and closer Midre Davis who so far has been filling in quite nicely for the traiterous Mitchell Ray.

Look for the Reds to compete but don't look too closely as the shame of defeat will be bitter. Here's to introducing the little Red Machine.

Pirates Season 14 preview

After another playoff disappointment last season, the Pirates are ready to do battle in the NL North again. With the Reds losing Yamil, Pirates management feels the team has a fighting chance this year.
Key additions: Bruce Kinney, Don Benson, Clarence Valentin, Brandon Walton, Miguel Chavez, and Dallas Hyzdu
Key departures: Kent Heredia, Brian Baker, Marty Benoit, and Mariano Costilla
Losing Heredia hurts. Hopefully Kinney and Benson can pick up the slack.

The Pirates season 14 opening day roster:
C: Andy Reagan, backing Andy up will be: Happy Hayes
1B: Max Fuentes will start against righties, against lefties Dallas Hyzdu and Tim Roberts will get some at bats
2B: Luis Cruz moves back to 2nd this season to make room for Clarence.
SS: Don Gong backing Don up will be Juan Bonilla
3B: Clarence Valentin gets a shot at 3rd, Oswaldo Guillen will backup at 3rd and the OF
LF: Juan Carrasquel, spelling Juna from time to time will be: Tim Roberts
CF: Bernard Shelley, it's his job to lose
RF: Alex Richardson

Pitching Staff
SP1: Tim Loewer
SP2: Omar Elcano
SP3: Jimmie Torres
SP4: Bruce Kinney
SP5: Don Benson
Mop up: Miguel Chavez
Long Relief: Alex Espinoza he'll get some starts when needed
Setup: Javy Urbina, Albert Villafuerte, Brandon Walton, and Geraldo Rosa
Closer: Andres Coronado

Coming up later on in the season sometime after the all-star break will be: David Gomez. Management will find a spot for him, probably in LF and move Carrasquel to 1st.
Hard to make a prediction for this team, a lot depends on how Kinney does in PNC park. The team needs key contributions from youngsters: Valentin, Shelley, and Walton.

Monday, November 9, 2009

World Series Bout!

Well, the dust has settled and we have a rematch of last years fight, Durham Bulls vs Cincinnati Reds.
The LCS was quite remarkable as St. Louis couldn't hit and the injury to Everett Hill early in game 3 quickly led to the Tards downfall. So who will win in the rematch? The money lies with the Reds experience and know-how. But lets not forget that the Bulls have been here before and are hungry. The answer will be pitching, can the Reds shut down the Bulls offense. Can the Reds offense score enough runs to come out on top one more time? Stay tuned as this series could be remarkable.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crystal Ball Picks Update

We are down to the LCS and it is time to look at my Crystal Ball picks at the beginning of the season. Funny how I can determine who will be in just by looking at one report and not even look at a teams roster. So. How did I do?

This is how I saw the AL at the beginning:
1. St. Louis Barracudas
2. Durham Bulls
3. Syracuse Sycamores
4. Anaheim Angels
5. Monterrey Corn Dogs
6. Detroit Detroit

Teams to fear: Las Vegas, Helena Hot Pockets, Austin Fightin' Armadillos, Dover Dung Beetles

Biggest prediction: The wild cards will have more wins than the #3 and #4 seeds.

What happened in the AL at the end:
Well, in the end it is St. Louis and Durham, so I must not have been far off. Syracuse ended up one game out in an unflattering East race. Detroit was the biggest disappointment as I thought they would have played better and Helena sneaking in was a big surprise. Almost got away with that wild card prediction also, lol.

This is how I saw the NL at the beginning:
1. Santa Fe Tard Parks
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Atlanta Pork-N-Beans or Trenton Ball Hogs
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Chicago Cubs
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Teams to fear: Oklahoma City Kevin Durants, San Antonio Stars, Cleveland Indians

Biggest prediction: Oklahoma City will win 70 games.

What happened in the NL at the end:
I really thought Santa Fe would be the #1 seed but still it is the Reds and Tards in the LCS. I couldn't make up my mind between Atlanta and Trenton, but an early injury in Atlanta may have spelled their doom. A lot of comments were made about the choice and placement of the Pirates and Cubs. In the end it was close and really right on the mark in essence. Okie City let me down by 4 games in the biggest prediction. The biggest surprise was the Texas Rangers and maybe Tarhorn07 should have been Manager of the Year in the NL.

The new updates will probably have no effect on the playoffs this season. Next season however could be a different ball game entirely. Will it actually have much effect at all? I have kept up with the forum and they seem to think so, but I really don't see that much of a change myself in all reality. To me the biggest thing is the power guys that carry a .250 average and hit 70+ homers will be a thing of the past, other than that I don't see anything that is really detrimental. I am not sure the proposed error rates will have that much of an effect in the end.

My Predictions
Who am I rooting for in the LCS? It is really too close to call in all reality but I like St Louis and Santa Fe in 6 games. I like Santa Fe to win it all. Why? If I use the same crystal ball method that is how it will turn out, but this is the playoffs and strange things happen. Did I just doom them both? Guess we will find out soon enough.